MSA invites Clinton to honor Humphrey speech

by Andrew Donohue

With plans of a summer celebration honoring Hubert H. Humphrey II in the works, the Minnesota Student Association did its part this week to further enhance the festivities by sending an official invitation to President Clinton.
July 14th will mark the 50th anniversary of Humphrey’s historic speech on civil rights at the Democratic National Convention. With the anniversary, the University will sponsor a celebration of the speech and Humphrey’s achievements, tentatively set to take place sometime between mid-June and mid-July.
“As the representatives of the student body, if a situation like this arises, I think we should do everything in our power to make sure it happens,” said MSA President Jigar Madia, who signed the invitation. “It would be an honor to have the President of the United States of America come to the University of Minnesota.”
A University alumnus and former U.S. vice president, Humphrey has been regarded as a pioneer in civil rights and race relations.
“Humphrey was a great Minnesotan. He started a nationwide discussion on race relations, and hopefully that can continue with a visit from President Clinton,” Madia said.
Humphrey’s speech came at a time when racial tensions across the country were mounting, according to MSA’s letter. Humphrey’s words changed not only the sentiments of the Democratic Party, but of the nation.
“It is important that the University celebrates this because Humphrey was a student at the University,” said Kate Bischoff, MSA representative and author of the invitation. “We want to add emphasis to his role and to highlight student wants and needs in dealing with race relations.”
“Humphrey changed the way things happened with civil rights legislation. Celebrating his speech will show how far we have come and how far we have to go,” Bischoff said.
Joining the student association in sending an invitation to the White House is the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, which has asked University President Mark Yudof to sign its invitation.
“The dedication that Humphrey had to issues of civil rights was so fundamental in his character and so important to American history,” said Steve Sandell, director of the Humphrey Forum. “This is a chance to revisit a conversation on race relations, and civil rights is really important.”
MSA’s invitation met some controversy in the student association’s forum last week. Ethical issues were dug up by some members of the forum, who questioned if their association as a whole was endorsing a political party, something deemed illegal by the group’s constitution.
“It is important that we respect President Clinton’s place in office, whether you are a Democrat or Republican,” said Britta Ylikopsa, an MSA representative who co-sponsored the letter in last week’s forum.
Supporters of the invitation stressed it was not a politically motivated letter, but simply a bi-partisan attempt at focusing a national eye on the University.
After some discussion, forum members approved sending the invitation.
In light of allegations that have arisen against Clinton since the association’s forum, opposition of the invitation has grown stronger.
“Clinton’s unethical role as a symbol of degradation and oppression of women should not be tolerated on this campus,” said Bill Gilles, College Republican chairman and MSA representative. “With Clinton’s problems of late, the MSA may be wise to withhold their invitation until they know if he is president or not.”
“The president was invited here to talk about his policies on race relations, hopefully these new allegations will not play a factor,” Madia said.
“They should, in any case, be ready with a ‘Dear Al,’ letter,” Gilles said.